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What Is A TOPCon Solar Cell?& TOPcon VS Mono PERC Production Impact

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The efficiency and performance of solar cells have been constantly improving in recent years, one such development that has gained a lot of attention in the industry is the TOPCon solar cells (Tunnel Oxide Passivated Contact).

Recently TOPCon cell has been unstoppable in getting a historic innovation breakthrough, In October 2023, Jinko revealed that the efficiency of TOPCon solar cell has exceeded 26.89%, which is the most efficient solar cell in the world.

In this blog post, we will take a closer look at TOPCon solar cell from:

  • Working Principle
  • Advantages
  • Cost Components
  • Comparison with PERC Mono

What Is A TOPCon Solar Cell?

TOPCON stands for Tunnel Oxide Passivated Contact, TOPCON solar cell is a type of solar cell that uses a tunnel oxide layer to passivate the contact between the front and rear layers of the cell. 

This passivation layer reduces the recombination of charge carriers, improving the cell’s efficiency. TOPCon solar cells are also known for their excellent spectral response and low-temperature coefficient, making them ideal for use in hot and humid climates.

N-Type TOPCon Silicon Cells

Cells built on an N-type silicon substrate offer improved performance over the more common P-type silicon due to a greater tolerance to impurities which increases overall efficiency. In addition, N-type cells have a lower temperature coefficient compared to both mono and multi-P-type cells. N-type cells also have a much lower rate of LID or light-induced degradation and do not generally suffer from LeTID (light and elevated temperature-induced degradation) which is a common problem with P-type cells.

TOPCon or Tunnel Oxide Passivated Contact refers to a specialized rear-side cell passivation technique that helps reduce the internal recombination losses in the cell and boosts cell efficiency. The process has been available for several years but is now becoming the new industry standard as manufacturers strive to increase efficiency and performance.

Solar+PV+cell+construction+N-type
Solar+PV+cell+construction+N-type

How Do TOPCon Solar Cells Work?

TOPCon solar cells work by using a combination of layers and materials to capture and convert sunlight into electricity. The front layer of the cell is usually made of a highly-doped silicon material, while the back layer is made of a low-doped silicon material. The tunnel oxide layer is placed between the front and back layers to passivate the contact.

When sunlight hits the cell, it creates electron-hole pairs in the front layer. These charge carriers are then separated by an electric field and collected by metal contacts on the front and back of the cell. The passivation layer reduces the recombination of the charge carriers, which improves the efficiency of the cell.

 

TOPCon Solar Cell
Cell structure of TOPcon cell

 

Why Are TOPCon Solar Cells Revolutionary?

TOPCon solar cells have several advantages over traditional solar cells. Firstly, they have a higher efficiency, which means that they can generate more electricity from the same amount of sunlight. This makes them ideal for use in large-scale solar power plants, where maximizing efficiency is crucial.

Secondly, TOPCon solar cells have a lower temperature coefficient than traditional solar cells. This means that their efficiency does not decrease as much in hot and humid climates. This makes them ideal for use in regions with high ambient temperatures, such as the Middle East and Africa.

Finally, TOPCon solar cells have an excellent spectral response. This means that they can generate electricity from a wider range of the solar spectrum, including the blue and green parts of the spectrum. This makes them ideal for use in areas with high levels of diffuse light, such as cloudy or overcast regions.

 

TOPCon Solar Cell
Layer structure of TOPCon solar cell

What Are the Advantages of  TOPCon Technology?

Manufacturing process: TOPCon cells are manufactured using the same machines as P-type cells, eliminating the need for high capital investment and reducing manufacturing costs.

High Efficiency: Compared to P-type solar cells, n-type solar panels TOPCon cells can convert sunlight more efficiently and achieve higher conversion efficiencies of up to 28%, which is higher than the maximum efficiency of PERC cells.

TOPCon cells use ultra-thin silicon oxide and silicon nitride as the tunneling layer, which can significantly reduce the surface compound loss and increase the open-circuit voltage, and its conversion efficiency has already exceeded 25%, with a theoretical efficiency upper limit comparable to or even higher than that of HJT.

Low Degradation: Compared to PERC cells, TOPCon cells have lower power degradation in the first year and after 30 years of use, extending the life of the module.

Low-temperature coefficient: TOPCon cells perform better at high temperatures with lower output power loss, giving them higher efficiency in hot climates.

Bifacial power generation: TOPCon cells also support bifacial power generation, which further enhances system power generation. In bifacial solar panels, TOPCon cells provide a better power boost, contributing to improved bifacial module performance.

Low-light performance: N-type IBC solar panels show higher efficiency in low-light conditions, extending daytime power generation and improving long-term performance.

Compatibility: TOPCon technology has good compatibility with existing PERC production lines and can be retrofitted and upgraded at low cost, which helps to quickly realize large-scale production and reduce costs.

Cost reduction path: With the advancement of material and process technologies, such as wafer thinning, metallization paste improvement, and equipment localization, the cost of TOPCon cells is expected to further decrease.

TOPCon Solar Panel
TOPcon solar panels & bifacial solar panels

Cost Components of  TOPCon Cells

Why are TOPCon cells the most expensive of the common cells on the market? Generally speaking, the cost composition of solar cells can include the following aspects. We have listed a few of the most significant cost factors in TOPCon’s cell manufacturing process, and you can learn more about their percentages in the chart below.

  • Material costs: Semiconductor materials (e.g., silicon, chalcogenide, etc.), conductive materials, glass substrates, back sheets, etc., are required for manufacturing cells. Also POE film, EPE, EVA materials, and other auxiliary materials
  • Manufacturing process costs The cost of equipment, labor, and energy in the manufacturing process.
  • Design and R&D Costs: Involves the costs required for cell design and technology development, as well as testing and validation costs.
  • Production Efficiency: The efficiency and throughput of the production process affect costs, and higher production efficiencies can often reduce manufacturing costs per unit of product.
  • Management and operational costs: A range of expenses such as management, sales, and marketing.
  • Governance and Regulatory Costs: Compliance with environmental regulations and industry standards may add some costs.

 

topcon cell cost components,Topcon cell production costs are made up of what, why topcon cell costs are relatively high, topcon cell cost components
TOPCon cell cost components

Encapsulation Options for TopCon Single-Glass Solar Panels

TopCon single-glass solar panels offer a variety of encapsulation options to meet diverse market needs. For cost-effective choices, they use standard EVA film, high-transparency EVA film, and high-efficiency TOPCon cells, complemented with a standard back sheet. If the requirement leans towards high efficiency, one can opt for EVA or EPE film, coupled with white EVA film to enhance reflectivity and incorporate TOPCon cells to ensure high power output. For aesthetically pleasing products, options include EVA or EPE film, special black infrared-reflective film to improve appearance, and TOPCon cells to ensure beauty and efficiency. These choices allow consumers to select the solar panel encapsulation that best suits their specific needs and budget

More EconomicalEVA Film, TOPCon Cells, High-Transparency EVA Film, Backsheet
More EfficientEVA Film/EPE Film, TOPCon Cells, White EVA Film, Backsheet
More AestheticEVA Film/EPE Film, TOPCon Cells, Black Infrared Reflective Film, Backsheet

TOPCon Solar Cell Vs. PERC Solar Cell

According to third-party organizations’ overall forecasts and current TOPCon solar cell production, in the future TOPCon will become one of the three mainstream cells with PERC and HJT cells, as high power generation efficiency is the trend of the market. After the cost breakthrough, the TOPCon solar cell may even become the highest yield, the most widely used solar cell.

What is the difference between TOPCon and PERC solar cells? &Why is TOPCon better than perc? TOPcon offers higher efficiency and better bifacial performance but requires more silver, which can increase production costs. The competition and ongoing research and development in the solar industry will likely continue to shape the relative market positions of these two technologies in the coming years.

TOPCon and PERC are two different types of solar cells that are used in the photovoltaic industry. TOPCon stands for Tunnel Oxide Passivated Contact, while PERC stands for Passivated Emitter and Rear Cell.

Competitiveness

According to the Fraunhofer Institute study, TOPCon solar cells are making strides towards competing with PERC cells. However, to gain more market share, TOPCon needs to work on improving its efficiency and reducing production costs.

Efficiency

TOPCon solar cells have a higher efficiency rate compared to PERC cells. Specifically, TOPCon boasts an efficiency of 26.1%, while PERC has an efficiency of 24.5%. Higher efficiency is generally desirable because it means more electricity can be generated from the same amount of sunlight.

Bifaciality

Bifaciality is a measure of how effectively a solar cell can capture light from both the front and rear sides. TOPCon cells have a higher bifaciality factor, at 85%, than PERC cells with a 70% bifaciality factor. This can make TOPCon cells more versatile in certain applications where sunlight can be reflected onto the rear side of the cell.

Metallization

One important consideration is the amount of silver required in the metallization process for these cells. TOPCon cells require more silver, around 130-150mg per piece, while PERC cells use less silver, approximately 85mg per piece. This increased use of silver can contribute to higher production costs for TOPCon cells.

Solar Cell TypeFormationEfficiencyCostPerformance in High Temperatures
Mono PERCSimilar to mono-crystalline cells, with an added passivation layer at the rearOutperforms traditional mono-crystalline cellsMarginally more expensive, justified by improved efficiencyDemonstrates superior performance in high temperatures compared to traditional mono-crystalline cells
TOPConUtilizes a tunnel oxide layer to passivate contacts on the rear sideGenerally boasts higher efficiencyThis can be higher due to increased manufacturing complexity, offset by efficiency gainsDisplays commendable performance in high-temperature conditions
HJTIntegrates amorphous silicon layers with crystalline silicon, forming heterojunctionsOften achieves higher efficiencyInitially higher due to more intricate manufacturing processes, potential cost reduction over time due to economies of scaleGenerally excels in high-temperature conditions due to lower temperature coefficients

TOPcon VS Mono PERC Production Impact

TOPcon VS Mono PERC production impact is reflected in the following areas: the PERC Mono and TOPCon processes have different requirements for production equipment.  Although the PERC process and TOPCon are somewhat similar in principle, the production process and equipment cannot be fully shared, and generally only non-core equipment such as chemical treatment, flocking, and some testing can be shared.

Cell Structures

-PERC Cells: PERC cells have a passivated emitter rear contact structure. The passivation layer, oxide layer, and polysilicon layer are significant components of PERC cell structure.

-TOPCon Cells: TOPCon cells have a different structure, especially in terms of the passivation layer, oxide layer, and polysilicon layer.

Production Challenges

-Both PERC and TOPCon cells present challenges in the production process, such as difficult process preparation and high product discreteness.

-High requirements on process environment, technology, and industrial digital management are needed for both technologies.

Production Line Characteristics:

-The TOPCon cell process closely resembles semiconductor MOS (Metal-Oxide-Semiconductor) process characteristics.

-Clean room level requirements differ between TOPCon and PERC cell production lines.

Mono PERC cells have passivated contacts on the front side, while TopCon cells have passivated contacts on the back side. Due to the backside contact design, additional steps may be required to manufacture TopCon cells, which may impact production costs.

Equipment Requirements:

Due to the differences in cell structures and production processes, the equipment requirements for PERC and TOPCon cells are distinct.

While some principles may be similar, sharing is generally limited to non-core equipment, including chemical processing, velvet (possibly referring to wafer polishing), and some testing equipment.

Production Line Yield
-TOPCon is 98.5%, and now there is a big difference in what each company announces, from 90-95%.

-PERC is about 98%.

Number of Processes
-PERC consists of 11 processes

-TOPCon consists of 12 processes

Equipment Investment
-The investment cost for PERC is $1260 Million/kW

-TOPCon is $1750 Million/kW.

Conclusion

TOPCon solar cells have proven to be a game changer in solar energy, offering significantly higher efficiency and improved performance compared to traditional solar cells. With its potential to reduce the cost of solar energy, TOPCon technology has the potential to play a crucial role in the transition toward a more sustainable and carbon-neutral energy system. As research and development continue, we can expect to see even more impressive advancements in TOPCon technology, making solar energy an increasingly viable and attractive source of renewable energy for the future.

FAQs About TOPCon Solar Cell

Q: Why is TOPCon better than PERC?
A: TOPCon (Tunnel Oxide Passivated Contact) is an n-type solar cell with higher efficiency and voltage than PERC (Passivated Emitter Rear Cell), a p-type solar cell. TOPCon’s features include a thin tunnel oxide layer, reducing recombination, and a polycrystalline silicon layer on the rear side, improving passivation and reducing resistance.

Q: Is mono PERC more efficient than monocrystalline?
A: Yes, Mono PERC, a type of monocrystalline solar cell, is more efficient than conventional monocrystalline cells. It includes a thin dielectric layer on the rear side, enhancing light absorption and current. Additionally, Mono PERC cells have fewer impurities and defects, reducing recombination and increasing voltage.

Q: What are the benefits of mono PERC panels?
A: Mono PERC panels offer higher efficiency and power output, especially in challenging conditions. They have a lower degradation rate and longer lifespan than conventional monocrystalline panels. Moreover, Mono PERC panels have lower production costs and environmental impact, utilizing less silicon and energy.

Q: What is the advantage of TOPCon compared to HJT?
A: TOPCon has advantages over HJT (Heterojunction Technology), including lower production costs and simplicity. HJT, while efficient, involves a high production cost and complexity due to the use of amorphous silicon layers on both sides of the crystalline silicon wafer. HJT is also more sensitive to humidity and degradation than TOPCon.

Q: What is the efficiency of TOPCon vs PERC?
A: The theoretical efficiency of TOPCon cells is 28.7%, exceeding the theoretical efficiency of PERC cells, which is 24.5%. In mass production, TOPCon cells achieve greater than 24% efficiency, while PERC cells achieve around 23%.

Q: What is the difference between PERC and TOPCon?
A: The main difference lies in the silicon type and rear cell structure. PERC uses p-type silicon with a dielectric layer on the rear side, reflecting light. TOPCon uses n-type silicon with a tunnel oxide layer and polycrystalline silicon on the rear side, improving passivation and reducing resistance.

Q: What is the efficiency of mono PERC?
A: The efficiency of mono PERC cells varies based on factors like wafer size, quality, cell design, and environmental conditions. On average, mono PERC cells have around 22% efficiency, with the highest efficiency reaching approximately 25%.

Q: What is the difference between mono PERC and monocrystalline?
A: Mono PERC is a type of monocrystalline solar cell with higher efficiency. It includes a thin dielectric layer on the rear side, reflecting light back to the cell and reducing recombination. Mono PERC also has fewer impurities and defects compared to conventional monocrystalline cells.

Q: What are the disadvantages of monocrystalline panels?
A: Monocrystalline panels have drawbacks, such as higher production costs and environmental impact compared to polycrystalline or thin-film panels. They also exhibit lower performance and efficiency than n-type or bifacial panels, with higher sensitivity to shading and dirt. Monocrystalline panels have a lower tolerance to partial shading and are more prone to dust accumulation.

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